And so, we’re at the last spot before the top 10. It seems like a fitting place to take a short break for Christmas, before I come back refreshed and nursing a broken liver to complete the series over the New Year period. Thanks again to those of you who have stuck with me over the last couple of weeks, making this rather intense and time-consuming labour of love worth the effort.
And, as always, if you’re new, welcome and don’t forget to check out my picks from 30 down to 12 via the links at the bottom of this post.
But now on to he main event and my choice at number 11…
‘The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime’
ZYX/Golden Core Records
I begin this post with a caveat: the only reason why this album is outside the top 10, albeit by just one place is because it was released so late in the year. Career pressures, the stresses of moving house and two small children meant that I simply haven’t had enough time to fully digest ‘The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime’, the xth album from German melodic progressive rock/metal band Subsignal. Indeed, it is entirely possible that when the dust settles in a few months, I will look back at this placement and call myself a few silly names and will wish it featured higher up the list. However, as this is an end-of-year round-up, I have to be honest and allow my integrity to take precedence. So, number 11 it is.
I make no secret of the fact that I adore Subsignal. In fact, I adored Sieges Even, the more progressive and technical predecessor to Subsignal. Began as a project, it became clear to founding members, Messrs Markus Steffen (guitars) and Arno Menses (vocals) that Subsignal deserved more than just ‘part-time project’ status and the band quickly became the full-time focus.
In terms of sheer sophistication and elegance, there are few acts that can match Subsignal and ‘The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime’ simply underlines this statement. If you’re after progressive music that is technical and expertly crafted but with an emphasis on strong compositions and plenty of melody, then Subsignal are the band for you. It still baffles me how this band does not command a bigger following; this is now the xth album of the highest quality and yet I hear very few people mention this band. It’s a crying shame but hopefully the breakthrough is not too far away – these guys deserve it.
The thing that strikes me hardest about ‘The Beacons…’ compared with previous releases is the increased heaviness this time around. Don’t panic, Subsignal have not morphed into a death metal band or anything, it is just that some of the riffs are surprisingly heavy both in tone and delivery, whilst there’s more than a little aggressive drumming within some of the tracks that also raises an eyebrow. After the quiet and soothing instrumental intro, we’re hit with the duo of ‘Tempest’ and ‘A Time Out Of Joint’, both of which contain sections that feel heavier than anything that has gone before. They still contain plenty of melody and accessibility mind you, but the added aggression is difficult to ignore. Then there’s the thrash undertones of the riffs within ‘Everything Is Lost’. Personally, I find the extra power and grunt refreshing for a prog band and fully welcome this approach.
That aside, Subsignal are one of those ever-rarer bands that has a unique identity – within moments of the album commencing and then throughout, there’s never any doubt that this is a Subsignal record. Menses’ rich and emotive vocals are all over this thing, as are the clean and acoustic guitar phrases and embellishments that lend the compositions their subtle and majestic beauty. Everything is performed with care, precision and with a sense of real feeling. Piano, saxophone and other interesting synth effects also make an appearance to nice effect, enhancing the overall experience.
Almost all of the eleven tracks are worthy of an individual mention. However, personal favourites include ‘And The Rain Will Wash It All Away’, ‘A Myth Written On Water’ and ‘Everything Is Lost’, all of which take very little time in infiltrating the subconscious and leaving a huge indelible mark on the listener. In particular, the balladic ‘A Myth Written On Water’ is so brilliant that it is quite possibly one of the very best tracks of the year.
As I said before, I can’t understand why Subsignal are not more widely known and loved. Put simply, they are very definitely one of the best bands currently in the progressive music genre. As such, even if you only have a passing interest in this genre, you need to make it a priority to check out Subsignal. I’d be surprised if anyone finds it to be a waste of time.
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 12
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 13
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 14
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 15
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 16
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 17
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 18
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 19
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 20
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 21
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 22
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 23
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 24
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 25
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 26
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 30
And from previous years: